Payout refusal raises wider polytunnel insurance concern

Nurseries may believe they are insured against snow and wind damage when they are not, Bradley Hall Nurseries owner has warned.

Pat Williams of Bradley Hall Nurseries said her insurance company will not pay out on the damage to the business's polytunnels from last winter's snow because "they're not proper buildings", despite the policy having been sold to her by a representative who visited the premises in person.

Williams suggested that other nurseries and garden centres could find themselves in a similar position should they ever try to claim. Hundreds of nurseries may erroneously believe that they are insured, she said.

After having run the nursery for 15 years, last year's snow buckled a canopy and ripped four polytunnels. She said repairs will cost £15,000 and business interruption £30,000-£40,000.

"Check your policy," she advised. "You may think you're insured for snow or wind damage when you aren't. They took our money knowing we were not covered against the weather."

Williams said she changed insurers last year and an inspector came round to examine the structures. There are no buildings at her site, meaning all the structures are of "non-standard" construction, which she has since learnt is only covered for terrorist or plane strikes. The case is going through a legal process so she cannot name her insurer.

Commenting on the wider issue of polytunnel insurance, HTA Insurance Services business underwriting director Martin Jones said: "The general insurance market stance on providing insurance for polytunnels is to limit the cover on these structures, normally to fire, aircraft, explosion, earthquake and lightning.

"However, as a specialist in providing insurance covers for both commercial growers and garden centres, we recognise that over the years the development within the polytunnel industry has improved significantly and there are many cases which we underwrite that have the wider cover to include the likes of storm and weight-of-snow damage."

He added: "In situations where wider cover is provided we give full reinstatement (new for old) cover on the frames only with the actual polythene covering arranged on an indemnity basis (deduction for wear and tear) as the covering normally is only guaranteed for three, five or seven years.

"It is our normal practice to visit new clients and we would then be in a position to confirm if the wider cover can be given. If a HTA member approached us for a quotation and time was against us, we would ask for photos of the polytunnels internally and externally so we could give a view subject to a visit. In all our documentation it is clear as to what cover applies to these structures."

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